Autism standards in a nursery, school or college

Most autistic children and young people will have their needs met in a local mainstream early years setting, school or college. They should have a good understanding of your child’s special educational needs, a positive attitude, and an appropriate level of expertise.

All schools are expected to ensure they offer an inclusive environment that is adapted to meet needs.

Standards and guidance your child's nursery, school or college should follow

The Autism Educational Trust has produced best practice guidance for schools and other educational settings. These standards help them check that how they teach meets the needs of pupils on the autism spectrum.

Your nursery, school or college should tell you how they meet or are working towards best practice. You can also ask them for a copy of their special educational needs (SEN) policy. Their website should tell you what they offer children or young people with special educational needs.

We have produced our own SEN standards and guidance for nurseries and schools. They are called the Early Years Best Practice Guidance (for nurseries and pre-schools) and the Mainstream Core Standards (for schools).

Ways a nursery, school or college may help your child

  • Explain any changes in routines or systems in advance.
  • Use visual timetables to show what will be happening during the day or week.
  • Set explicit and clear expectations. Use unambiguous language.
  • Always tell the pupil what to do, not what not to do.
  • In lessons, set tasks with clear goals and provide step-by-step instructions with visual clues on worksheets, posters, whiteboard etc.
  • Provide frameworks (scaffolds) for writing e.g. step-by-step templates, mind maps, bubble diagrams, cloze procedure etc.
  • Have clear plans for unstructured times of the day e.g. break-time, lunchtime, before  and after school, movement between lessons.
  • Use visual aids to support a child to gauge and communicate how they are feeling, for example emotional barometers, traffic light signs etc.
  • Provide access to temporary personal working spaces that  offer a degree of  separation, for example with screens, booths in the classroom. These can be used for specific time-limited tasks or for positive time-out.
  • Expect to teach the child social skills e.g. what to do when praised, how to ask for help, enter a room and greet people, sustain a conversation, make and sustain friendships with their peers, and how to regulate their own behaviour.
  • Allow ample time for learning social skills through rehearsal and practice.
  • Use simple step-by-step visual illustrations to describe and rehearse an event or social interaction. Comic strips, sequential photographs or pictures etc. can be created for a wide range of situations.
  • Use immediate and individualised reward systems based on the pupils likes and interests, for example collecting stickers, extra time on the computer.